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Stock up on these healthy foods

You don’t need to be rich in time or money to be healthy – it’s doable and affordable if you know how. Start by adding these health foods to your shopping basket.

One small thing: Use every part of the spinach plant, including the stems – this is where many of the nutrients are stored. Simply chop and fry these as part of your dish. Baby spinach, with its softer leaf, is it an excellent choice for salads.

Having a well-stocked pantry and fridge will go a long way to helping you achieve your healthy-eating goals. We’ve taken the guesswork out, and rounded up the must-haves to add to your shopping list.

Fresh produce
1. Broccoli

This green bomb is filled with vitamins and fibre. To enjoy all its nutrients, chop it up and add it raw to salads. You can also roast broccoli or steam it lightly in a small amount of water.

2. Cauliflower

This pale veg, rich in vitamin C and folate, became more popular with the rise of the Banting diet, which introduced us to cauli wraps, pizza bases and even rice. This superfood is not exclusive to a low-carb, high-fat diet, though. Cut into florets, and roast for a sweet, nutty taste, or sauté with a sprinkling of turmeric for added flavour.

3. Spinach or kale

Spinach and kale are both known as superfoods and have healthy amounts of iron, magnesium and potassium. Remember, the stems are where many nutrients are stored, so chop and fry these as part of the dish. Baby spinach, with its softer leaf, is an excellent choice for salads. Add a few leaves of spinach to your next smoothie or vegetable stir-fry.

4. Carrots

These crunchy, nutrient-dense vegetables are a great source of fibre, potassium and antioxidants, such as beta carotene. They are delicious eaten raw or cooked – but cooking carrots actually boosts the availability of the vitamin A. Grated carrots make a great addition to wraps, carrot soup is a winter favourite, and no lunchbox is complete without a serving of baby carrots.

5. Sweet potatoes

This low GI (Glycaemic Index) superfood has 10 times more vitamin A than regular white potatoes. (Its low GI will help keep you feeling fuller for longer, which is a bonus for people who want to lose weight.) Sweet potatoes are delicious when baked in their skin and served with a dollop of low-oil mayonnaise and a sprinkling of black pepper.

6. Seasonal fruit, such as bananas and apples

Always keep a stock of seasonal fruit at home for a healthy snack. Bananas and apples are great for baked goods, adding natural sweetness and acting as binding agents. Apples, nectarines, pepino, mango and strawberries are a few delicious fruit options to add to salads.

Dairy
7. Ricotta or feta cheese

These cheeses are lower in fat than aged cheeses like cheddar. Feta is great in salads, sprinkled over baked potato or other veg, and as a filling with spinach. Ricotta lends a creaminess to baked goods, is great for dips and dessert, and an easy addition to salads. Ricotta is also low in sodium.

8. Plain yoghurt

This ingredient can be used in both sweet (sliced mango with plain yoghurt and flaked almonds is a treat) and savoury dishes (such as curries and quiches). If you add plain yoghurt while cooking, mix in a little cornflour to keep it from splitting at high temperatures. The probiotics found in yoghurt contribute to a healthy gut and immune system.

Staples
9. Brown rice

Choose brown rice for its high-fibre content – just what the doctor ordered for helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Also look out for brown or wild rice with added split peas and lentils.

10. Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a favourite among vegetarians because of their high protein, fibre and folate content. If you’re using canned chickpeas, drain and rinse them with water to reduce the amount of sodium. Blend them to make hummus or toast canned chickpeas and add them to your salads.

11. Oats

This wholegrain food is rich in soluble fibre and a good source of a variety of B vitamins. While always delicious for breakfast, oats can also be used for baking, as a binder for burgers and to thicken stews.

12. Lentils

Choose dried lentils, which retain their shape and texture better. They cook quickly and are delicious when added to rice, stews, salads and soups.

13. Olive or canola oil

You’ll always need some sort of oil in your kitchen, so be smart and stock up on heart-healthy ones. Olive oil is great for dressing salads, while an olive-oil blend or canola oil is perfect for cooking. Canola oil is endorsed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa.

14. Frozen peas

Frozen peas (as with all frozen veg) are just as nutritious as fresh ones. They’re so handy to have in the freezer on days when your fridge (or budget) is running low.

Protein
15. Tuna

This low-fat protein is delicious in a frittata, with spaghetti or in a salad, and when fresh pairs well with sweet potato. For the best low-salt option choose tuna canned in water or oil.

16. White fish

Eating a serving of fish twice a week is associated with many health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and therefore the risk of heart disease and stroke. This is mainly due to fish being a great source of the heart-healthy omega 3 fats.

17. Lean mince

We know a lot of flavour is in the fat of meat, but lean and extra-lean mince doesn’t have to be bland. Season mince well by adding aromatic herbs and spices, and a squeeze of lemon. Ostrich mince is the leanest mince available so experiment with making ostrich burgers or meatballs.

18. Chicken fillets

The white meat of chicken, such as the breast, is your healthiest option. Lose the skin and add flavour by marinating it or using a homemade sauce for cooking.

19. Eggs

This protein powerhouse is perfectly balanced, with a healthy dose of fat-soluble vitamins and selenium. Plus, canola eggs have omega-3 fats, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

If you have a question for our dietitians, click here, or to find a dietitian in your area, visit adsa.org.za. To get in touch with us, email healthhotline@pnp.co.za.